The transfer window has shut and Arsenal had a mixed window. They started off strong, making quick signings adding both depth and quality. Alexis adds a world class forward who can play all three positions up front, Ospina adds an experienced back up who can provide excellent competition to Szczesny and will perform admirably when called upon. Debuchy was a solid signing replacing the departed Sagna in a like for like type player, and Chambers is a star for the future who can play in three different positions and has already put in a string of excellent performances.
The last month of the window for Arsenal seemed to cloud how well they started the window. They sold Vermaelen and failed to bring in a replacement, even though they knew well in advanced that they would be losing his services. The lack of planning to replenish the defense is worrisome.
They were able to bring in Welbeck to shore up the forward options. My initial reaction to this was that it was a luxury signing, something that maybe we didn’t need in numbers but maybe in quality and that the money really should have been spent on a defensive player. However I am warming up to this signing and believe that he will make an excellent addition to the squad, providing needed competition to Sanogo and to Giroud when he is healthy.
With all that in mind here is a review of the current squad, post transfer window.
Goalkeepers – Szczesny, Ospina, Martinez
This is a position of strength for Arsenal. They have the reigning co-winner of the golden glove from the previous season in Szczesny. They have Ospina, the starting goalkeeper for a Colombia team that made it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup, and they have Emiliano (he would now like to be called that instead of Damian) Martinez, a youngster with the necessary height and potential but lacking in experience. Ospina will push Szczesny, which can only help both of them, while Martinez will watch and learn.
Defenders – Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Debuchy, Chambers, Monreal
The quality of defenders that Arsenal possesses is not bad. Koscielny and Mertesacker have formed a formidable partnership, one of the best in the Premier League for the past two seasons. Couple this with their understanding with Szczesny, that trio is strong.
Debuchy is an able right back that will put in consistent performances. I have not been overly impressed with him so far, his defending has been fine, but his passing has been below par, as is his reading of the game and decision making while attacking. Maybe he needs more time to gel with his new teammates. He was able to play Sagna out of the starting line up for France this summer, which is something that I keep reminding myself.
Gibbs and Monreal are a solid duo at left back, Gibbs the starter when healthy and Monreal is able back up when called upon.
Chambers is the most exciting bunch of the group; he clearly is a star of the future and has already put in a number of excellent performances for Arsenal. What a coup he has been. A typical Wenger signing.
Arsenal lack numbers in this group, dearly. The fact that they only have six defenders is absolutely ridiculous, especially when you consider there are only four healthy currently. The fact that Wenger failed to sign a replacement for Vermaelen is an absolute failure. They will compete on four fronts with six defenders, that is truly mind-boggling. If Arsenal is to reinforce in the January window, a defender must be on the top of the list. Any other signing would simply be a luxury.
Midfielders – Özil, Ramsey, Wilshere, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Cazorla, Flamini, Diaby, Zelalem, Coquelin
One of Arsenal’s strongest areas of the squad, they are loaded with tricky, technical and clever midfielders such as Özil, Wilshere, Cazorla, Ramsey, and Rosicky. Fitting them together on the field posses a problem, but it is a good problem to have. Ramsey, Wilshere, and Rosicky can provide the engine to the midfield, while Özil and Cazorla provide the creativity.
Both Chamberlain and Cazorla can play wide, and provide depth in those positions. Özil has been doing this of late and has been playing well considering it limits his abilities, but he really should be played through the middle over Cazorla.
Flamini, Arteta, and Coquelin make the spine of the midfield, which is fine for this season, but is something that will need to be addressed in the future. Arsenal lacks an enforcer type player, besides Flamini. Arteta has been thrust in to this role the past two and a half seasons, and although he is has played extremely well and is under appreciated, the impending age of both players mean that Arsenal most invest in enforcer soon. Coquelin is not the player to do this, nor is he the player of the future to do this. He will struggle to get playing time this season.
Diaby and Zelalem are the unknowns. I was fortunate enough to see both play against the New York Red Bulls this summer in New Jersey. I was impressed with both of them for different reasons. Zelalem impressed me because he is so calm and assured on the ball, especially while under pressure. This is an impressive and promising attribute for a player his age. Diaby’s work rate, considering his truly unfortunate injury history, impressed me. Wenger has already stated that Zelalem will not get extended playing time this season because physically he is not ready. This may be a bluff, it may not be. Seeing Zelalem grow this season would be a great development for this squad. If Diaby can stay healthy he will contribute in a bit part role. That’s a big if though.
Forwards – Giroud, Sanogo, Welbeck, Alexis, Walcott, Gnabry, Podolski, Campbell
Arsenal has three out and out forwards in Giroud, Welbeck, and Sanogo. Podolski should not play this role, as he does not have the required ability to hold up the ball that Arsenal’s system demands. He should be played wide. Alexis can also play in this role however his high work rate and speed are valuable on the flanks.
Walcott, Gnabry, and Campbell makes up the rest of the forwards, although they are strictly wide players (Walcott may not agree).
Of the midfielders, Chamberlain could very well be considered a forward, as he has the ability to play wide but his future seems to be through the middle.
This is definitely an area of depth for Arsenal, considering if they have a plethora of options for both the central and wide forward roles. Some may argue that they lack quality compared to the other top 4 teams. Strictly looking at goalscoring records, this may be true. However, Giroud is integral to the way Arsenal play, his injury could hurt them if Sanogo does not continue to develop. In fairness to Sanogo, his work rate is high and it is definitely not down to a lack of trying, he is simply not ready.
Welbeck is sort of the unknown right now mostly because we have not seen him play with his new teammates. He is a physical imposing player as he possesses both speed and strength. His scoring record is not off the charts, but Wenger is renowned for creating strikers out of players who had played wide or struggled finishing earlier in their careers, think Henry, Van Persie, and Adebayor. Welbeck has the potential to be an absolute start for Arsenal and if given the right tutelage, could have the same impact on Arsenal that Sturridge has had at Liverpool.
There is much to be excited for in this Arsenal squad. They have lots of talent in all positions. They lack a defender or two which my hurt them, but with five new players in the squad, all who are ready to contribute immediately, this Arsenal squad will grow and improve as the season goes on.